A medical secretary is a member of staff in health care facilities like hospitals and doctors' offices who performs administrative and supportive functions. In addition to having administrative skills, medical secretaries should have knowledge of medical terminology, the general language of the medical profession and be familiar with various medical procedures and business practices. This is because of the uniqueness of the health facilities work environments.
On a typical day, healthcare facilities are busy attending to the many patients who seek their services. Secretaries play an important role of receiving patients, assisting them with filling out forms, maintenance and retrieval of medical files, transcribing and typing of medical reports. Generally, they organize the huge amounts of data that the facilities generate every day.
A medical secretary performs a range of duties, which helps to streamline the operations of a medical practice, hospital etc. Being among the first persons that patients interact with when they arrive or call the facility, medical secretaries form an important link between patients and physicians. Often, the size of the facility determines the structure of hierarchy and the specific duties assigned to the secretary. In a smaller private clinic for example, the secretary may report directly to the physician. Larger establishments on the other hand, may have a structure of hierarchy in which the secretary reports to the department's head and may specialize on a specific function.
The main responsibility overseeing the smooth running of the medical establishment while making sure that patients have a positive impression. The secretaries receive the patients and direct them to the physician. Medical secretaries should have good knowledge of computer applications like word processing, spreadsheets in addition to medical software. This is important for enabling them to perform duties like updating patient information, scheduling appointments, managing the facility's database and medical records, managing the physician's schedule, processing payments and insurance claims.
Medical secretaries should have good communication skills for them to write and prepare reports, speeches and presentations, handle the telephone, postal and email communications, transcribe and type medical reports. The secretaries should have the necessary skills to operate equipment used in modern health facilities.
Because of the dynamic nature of a medical secretary's job, skills like the ability to handle multiple tasks, being organized and effective communication are extremely important. To perform their duties effectively, medical secretaries should have excellent administrative and organizational skills, people skills and the ability to handle patients and other members of the public skilfully. A high level of discretion to maintain confidentiality of sensitive information is a desirable attribute along with the ability to work with minimal supervision, handle pressure and meet deadlines. Working in hospital environments means that sometimes one is exposed stressful situations. Medical secretaries should be able to handle such situations well.
To become a medical secretary, a high school diploma is enough. Many employers will accept high school graduates and train them on the job. However, some tertiary institutions offer accredited training programs for aspiring medical secretaries who wish to get certification after completing either a certificate, diploma or degree program. Formal training combined with work experience improves one's chances of getting better jobs and higher pay.
The medical secretary training programs cover various courses including business communication, medical terminology, human anatomy and physiology, records management, database management, transcription, and insurance claims processing. Other courses include office practices and computer studies.
Prior to enrolling students into the medical secretary program, some colleges make completion of readiness tests a requirement. These tests, which commonly test students in math, reading and writing skills, prepare them for the medical administration program's course work. Online programs, which offer convenience to those who cannot attend the classes in person, are available as well. Because of the flexibility that these online courses offer, the programs are popular especially with those who are already in the job market but wish to study at the same time. However, it is important to note that online programs require commitment and discipline. One should have the right equipment to take part in the classes effectively. A computer with reliable internet connection is a basic requirement.
A career in medical administration is a good option for those who wish to work within the medical profession performing non-medical duties. Working as a secretary in a healthcare setting does not mean that one is stuck in the same position for years. This is because the career offers good prospects for career progression. With advance education and experience, one can rise to a managerial position or other senior role offering more responsibilities and rewards.
Medical administrator's job is mainly office oriented. Medical secretaries often spend a good part of their workday in the front office area where there is a lot of interaction with patients and other members of the public. Work hours are mostly the standard nine to five excluding weekends and one may opt for a part-time job.
Depending on the patient and work traffic, medical secretaries sometimes work under much pressure because of their many responsibilities and tight deadlines. Institutions like learning institutions, hospitals, private clinics, research institutions, pharmaceutical companies, laboratories, health insurance companies, non-governmental agencies and many others, need medical secretaries to perform clerical and various administrative support duties.